Barnhart dreaming big after recent success from football team


Mitch Barnhart during the CATSPYs on Monday, April 24, 2017 in Lexington, Ky.

Cody Ryan

While college football fans expect their team’s coaches and players to be confident, any college football fan would be envious of UK’s athletic director Mitch Barnhart’s confidence.

Barnhart is pleased with his team making it to a bowl game, but he has larger aspirations of competing for a SEC championship.

“That’s the goal. Make no mistake about it,” Barnhart said. “We want to get to Atlanta and have a chance to win the SEC championship.”

Most people around the country, and even around the world, know UK as a basketball school, but Barnhart is just as passionate about the football team.

“We wouldn’t have taken this job at Kentucky if we didn’t believe we could build a broad-based program and get things done that had never been done before,” Barnhart said. 

As for this year, the Cats didn’t participate in the SEC championship game and will end their season at the Music City Bowl. Kentucky fans have become well acquainted with Nashville, as the Cats went to the Music City Bowl three separate times between 2006-09.

While the Cats didn’t play in the SEC championship this year, Barnhart said he’s pleased with the progress of this team after failing to reach the postseason five straight years.

“As long as we’re making progress and getting to the postseason and trying to take that next step, it’s worth honoring,” Barnhart said.

However, if Barnhart wants to progress into a conference contender, the Cats will have to do so in arguably college football’s toughest conference. Even with the pool of quality teams, Barnhart still isn’t worried about the team accomplishing its goals.

“I don’t believe, just because it’s a tough league, that we cannot get done what we dream of doing,” Barnhart said. “That’s winning a Southeastern Conference championship and playing in those kind of moments, but I do not want to take away from what we’ve done in building back-to-back bowl games and trying to get that bowl win and eighth win.”

Barnhart believes that the pieces are in place in order for the Cats to be a title contender. On top of talented players, he thinks the quality of the facilities will help the Cats reach newer and greater heights.

“We want to continue to try and make progress,” Barnhart said. “Sometimes it takes longer than you want. We’ve invested in football here. We’ve got a wonderful stadium, a training facility that’s outstanding and I believe we’ve got the foundational pieces in place.”

The UK volleyball team recently had success in the NCAA Tournament. While Barnhart is proud of the volleyball team, he knows how difficult it is to be successful in college sports.

“Twelve years to become a top-four seed,” Barnhart said. “Unfortunately, in the world of college football and basketball sometimes you don’t get that period of time.”

Barnhart knows some work needs to be done, but there’s no denying his future goal.

“We want to be in the SEC championship game,” Barnhart said.